By ARIANA FIGUEROA
WASHINGTON — The White House will unveil an executive order in the coming days that directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to clarify that meat can only receive a “Product of USA” label if that livestock is raised in the U.S. rather than abroad, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
“The EO directs USDA to develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers markets and developing standards and labels so that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers and agriculture workers fairly,” Psaki said.
Psaki said that the executive order will make it easier for farmers to economically compete against international meat industries.
Under current labeling rules, most grass fed beef labeled “Product of USA” is actually raised and slaughtered abroad, but imported to the United States for processing.
“The president and the USDA believe it is unfair for domestic farmers and ranchers to have to compete with foreign companies that are misleading consumers,” she said.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement last week that the agency would initiate a “top-to-bottom” review of the “Product of USA” label that will help determine what the label means to consumers. The announcement followed a Federal Trade Commission move on strengthening the labeling.
“We have taken note of the many comments submitted to USDA and the FTC regarding meat labeling and understand that the current ‘Product of USA’ label on meat products may no longer effectively serve either of those purposes, to the detriment of consumers, producers, and fair and competitive markets,” said Vilsack.
Psaki said the order also aims to make it easier for farmers to bring claims against corporate agriculture companies under the Packers and Stockyards Act to prevent chicken processors from underpaying farmers, and would protect from retaliation those farmers who report companies that are not following the rules.
Ariana Figueroa covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Kansas Reflector.